GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It will be up to Florida’s next head coach to determine which direction the Gators go at quarterback next season, but the program can cross one potential option off the list.
Luke Del Rio announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he will participate in Senior Day proceedings Saturday before the Gators’ game with Florida State as he has decided not to use his final year of eligibility.
Del Rio, who spent time at Alabama (as a walk-on) and Oregon State before transferring again to Florida, had the option of returning for a sixth year of college football if he desired.
But after having his season cut short by injuries each of the last two years, he’ll instead move on to whatever is next.
“Have enjoyed my unique college career and am excited for what’s next,” he posted.
Yes, I will be participating in Senior Day on Saturday. I am a redshirt senior but have a 6th year of eligibility which I am choosing to not use. Have enjoyed my unique college career and am excited for what’s next #GoGators #BeatEveryone
— Luke Del Rio (@Ldelrio12) November 22, 2017
After sitting out the 2015 season following his transfer from Oregon State, prompted by a coaching change there, he made 6 starts last season for the Gators while passing for 1,358 yards, 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
He was only truly healthy for two of those starts, though, injuring his knee and throwing shoulder in the third game against North Texas. After missing only two games, he injured his non-throwing shoulder in his return against Georgia and labored through a couple more starts before being shutdown.
After having surgeries on both shoulders, Del Rio launched a remarkable comeback while impressing coaches in the preseason. By the second half of the third game of this season, he had reclaimed the job.
Del Rio took over for redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks at Kentucky, leading a 14-point fourth-quarter rally in a dramatic 28-27 win. That earned him the start the next week against Vanderbilt, but he was driven into the turf on a hard hit late in the second half, sustaining a season-ending broken collarbone.
Overall in those two games, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 138 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
It was a cruel ending after such a long-shot comeback, and it wasn’t just a deflating setback for Del Rio. It’s fair to wonder what difference his veteran presence would have made in narrow losses to LSU and Texas A&M the next two weeks and how the direction of Florida’s season might have been otherwise changed.
Nobody will ever know, nor will anyone truly know what Del Rio could have done over an extended period of healthy play.
Football is a tough game that way, though the quarterback sounds assured in his decision to move on to the next phase of his life at this point.
That will leave Florida with Franks, fellow redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask, redshirt freshman Jake Allen and incoming freshman Matt Corral (assuming he keeps his commitment) as quarterback options next year. Malik Zaire, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame this season, could also petition for an extra year via a medical redshirt for his lost 2015 season with the Fighting Irish if he so chooses.